Is Peoples Gas estimating your gas usage?  You may be hit with a large bill following an actual reading...

Our gas meter was read on June 5th after six months of "estimated" readings from November 19, 2008 through May 20, 2009.  Following the meter reading, we received an invoice cancelling the billing that had been issued for those months and showing a "Revised Prior Billing" amount that was $1,270.54 higher than the cancelled amount.  Unlike all of the other invoices we have received from Peoples Gas, there is no breakdown of the calculation for the revised billing.

The problem with this is that the delivery charge for the first 100 therms is about 2 1/2 times the charge for therms used over the first 100.  And gas rates from November through May ranged from $0.41490/therm to $0.99130/therm.  So which rates did Peoples Gas apply to the additonal usage?

Three calls to Peoples Gas could not turn up this information, though one representative indicated that we were charged the first 100 therms rate (which we'd already paid during each of those six months!)  I have made it clear to Peoples Gas that they must take an actual reading every month before they bill us.  If they can't explain how they are calculating their "Revised Bils", then we're not taking chances with estimates. 

Water is becoming an endangered resource.  As the population grows, so does our need for fresh water.  Increasing demand in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs has resulted in large rate increases since 2008.   Sewer rates, which are calculated as a percentage of the overall water bill, also increase as a result.

It’s becoming more important to implement measures to reduce water usage and waste.  These measures will not only make a positive environmental impact, they will reduce expenses for your Association.  Here are 100 ways to conserve water.  You’ll also find a daily conservation tip on the Chicago Condo Resource website.

In my previous condo building, I literally had to call the police to deal with a neighbor who was harassing me about an Association issue.  This neighbor was banging on my door, yelling and pressing the doorbell repeatedly while I stood on the other side, incredulous.  The source of her rage?  An expenditure the Board had approved for a landscaping project.

The holiday weekend has got me thinking about personal time and the need for Board members to set clear boundaries when it comes to dealing with owner issues.  All Association business, unless there is an emergency, should be addressed at a Board meeting or a special meeting of the unit owners.  This ensures that decisions are documented and prevents miscommunication among Board members.  It also sets a clear distinction between Board members' personal time and the time that is set aside for Association matters.

HausFS recommends that Board members set a communication policy for their Associations.  Any owner complaints or requests should be submitted in writing to the Board.  The Board should then respond to the owner only to indicate that the item has been added to the agenda for the next Board meeting.  Board members are not required to field emails or phone calls from owners unless there is an emergency.  Hostile emails or phone calls should not be addressed at all.  Board members are entitled to respectful communication from owners and vice versa.

Laying down ground rules for communication with the Board can help to make condo living easy!

I have heard of a case where an owner sued the condo Board for using Association funds to purchase flowers for the funeral of an owner's spouse--and won.  The expense wasn't in the Association budget, nor was it necessary for the repair, operation or maintenance of the building.  That $40.00 bouquet cost the Association a lot of time and money.  This is why it is important to remember that Association funds belong to everyone, and that they are not to be used by the Board or any owner except as prescribed in the governing documents.  

Ideally, no purchases should be made before first being approved by the Board at a Board meeting.  The Board should be reviewing its budget and current financials before approving any non-recurring expense to ensure that the funds are available and that the expense is legitimately an Association expense.  Expenses should be reviewed for legitimacy and further, small buildings on tight budgets need to keep a close eye on spending.  Even small purchases add up over the course of the year and can ultimately throw your Association way off budget.

Approving expenses at a Board meeting also ensures that the expense is recorded in meeting minutes.  This establishes a record of the approved expense should any owner wish to contest a purchase.  If an expense is approved by the Board anywhere outside of a Board meeting, it should be recorded in the minutes of the next Board meeting. 



Sometimes, reading the Board minutes that we review for our clients gives me flashbacks to my college days.  I am reminded of the frantic scribbling of notes during a lecture, as I tried to record everything the professor said without really understanding the most important points nor really being able to actively engage in the discussion. 

Taking the minutes at a Board meeting is not about trying to record verbatim every comment that is made.  As a voting Board member, the secretary needs to be able to participate in the discussion and provide input as well.  These simple guidelines will help to make the job of recording minutes easier for your Secretary while at the same time minimizing legal liability for matters that are not meant to be made public.

  1. Create a meeting agenda and use the same format when recording minutes.  Minutes should correspond to each item on the agenda.  (See sample agenda.)
  2. Discussion on items of business does not need to be recorded.  The Secretary only needs to record the motion made, the vote, and the resolution.  If the Board wishes to add a bit of information to clarify or further support a decision, however, that may also be entered into the minutes.  A dissenting Board member may also wish to have a comment entered to clarify why they voted against a motion that was passed by the majority.
  3. Any discussion regarding owner delinquencies or violations, appointment, employment or dismissal of an employee or legal action by or on behalf of the Association should not be recorded in the minutes.  The IL Condo Act requires that these issues be discussed in a closed session and therefore should not be made public in any meeting minutes.  However, any matter that requires a vote must be done during the open portion of the meeting and recorded in the minutes.
Following these guidelines will ease the pressure on the Secretary and produce concise, easy to read minutes!

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